Page images

save in the peasant folklore which keeps it up amongst us with so many other remnants of barbaric thought. And the like theory of spiritual influence as applied to Idolatry, though still to be studied among savages and barbarians, and on record in past ages of the civilized world, has perished so utterly amongst ourselves, that few but students are aware of its ever having existed.

To bring home to our minds the vastness of the intellectual tract which separates modern from savage philosophy, and to enable us to look back along the path where step by step the mind's journey was made, it will serve us to glance over the landmarks which language to this day keeps standing. Our modern languages reach back through the middle ages to classic and barbaric times, where in this inatter the transition from the crudest primæval animism is quite manifest. We keep in daily use, and turn to modern meaning, old words and idioms which carry us home to the philosophy of ancient days. We talk of genius” still, but with thought how changed. The genius of Augustus was a tutelary demon, to be sworn by and to receive offerings on an altar as a deity. In modern English, Shakspere, Newton, or Wellington, is said to be led and prompted by his genius, but that genius is a shrivelled philosophic metaphor. So the word “spirit” and its kindred terms keep up with wondrous pertinacity the traces which connect the thought of the savage with its hereditary successor, the thought of the philosopher. Barbaric philosophy retains as real what civilized language has reduced to simile. The Siamese is made drunk with the demon of the arrack that possesses the drinker, while we with so different sense still extract the “spirit of wine.”] Look at the saying ascribed to Pythagoras, and mentioned by Porphyry. “ The sound indeed which is given by striking brass, is the voice of a certain demon contained in that brass." These might have been the representative words of some savage animistic philo

| Bastian, 'Oestl. Asien,' vol. ii. p. 455. See Spiegel, 'Avesta, vol. ii.

sopher; but with the changed meaning brought by centuries of philosophizing, Oken hit upon a definition almost identical in form, that “ What sounds, announces its spirit" (" Was tönt, gibt seinen Geist kund.")? What the savage would have meant, or Porphyry after him did mean, was that the brass was actually animated by a spirit of the brass apart from its matter, but when a modern philosopher takes up the old phrase, all he means is the qualities of the brass. As for our own selves and our feelings, we still talk of “ animal spirits," of being in “good and bad spirits," only recalling with an effort the long past metaphysics which such words once expressed. The modern theory of the mind considers it capable of performing even exalted and unusual functions without the intervention of prompting or exciting demons; yet the old recognition of such beings crops up here and there in phrases which adapt animistic ideas to commonplaces of human disposition, as when a man is still said to be animated by a patriotic spirit, or possessed by a spirit of disobedience. In old times the eyyaotpiuv@os, or “ventriloquus” was really held to have a spirit rumbling or talking from inside his body, as when Eurykles the soothsayer was inspired by such a familiar ; or when a certain Patriarch mentioning a demon heard to speak out of a man's belly, remarks on the worthy place it had chosen to dwell in. In the time of Hippokrates, the giving of oracular responses by such ventriloquism was practised by certain women as a profession. To this day in China one may get an oracular response from a spirit apparently talking out of a medium's stomach, for a fee of about twopence-halfpenny. How changed a philosophy it marks, that among ourselves the word “ventriloquist " should have sunk to its present meaning.: Nor is that change less significant which, starting with the conception of a man being really éveos, possessed by a deity within him, carries on a metamorphosed relic of this thorough animistic thought, from čvdovolaouós to " enthusiasm." With all this, let it not be supposed that such change of opinion in the educated world has come about through wanton incredulity or decay of the religious temperament. Its source is the alteration in natural science, assigning new causes for the operations of nature and the events of life. The theory of the immediate action of personal spirits has here, as so widely elsewhere, given place to ideas of force and law. No indwelling deity now regulates the life of the burning sun, no guardian angels drive the stars across the arching firmament, the divine Ganges is water flowing down into the sea to evaporate into cloud and descend again in rain. No deity simmers in the boiling pot, no presiding spirits dwell in the volcano, no howling demon shrieks from the mouth of the lunatic. There was a period of human thought when the whole universe seemed actuated by spiritual life. For our knowledge of our own history, it is deeply interesting that there should remain rude races yet living under the philosophy which we have so far passed from, since Physics, Chemistry, Biology, have seized whole provinces of the ancient Animism, setting force for life and law for will.

1 Porphyr. de Vita Pythagoræ. Oken, ‘Lehrbuch der Naturphilosophie,' 2753.

2 Suidas, s. v. egyaoTpluvos ; Isidor. Gloss S. v. 'præcantatores ;' Bastian, Mensch.' vol. i. p. 578. Maury, 'Mage,' etc. p. 269. Doolittle, * Chinese,' vol. ii. p. 115.

[blocks in formation]

Spirits regarded as personal causes of Phenomena of the World— Pervading

Spirits as good and evil Demons affecting man-Spirits manifest in Dreams and Visions : Nightmares ; Incubi and Succubi ;' Vampires; Visionary Demons-Demons of darkness repelled by fire-Demons otherwise manifest : seen by animals ; detected by footprints—Spirits conceived and treated as material-Guardian and Familiar Spirits-Nature-Spirits; historical course of the doctrine-Spirits of Volcanos, Whirlpools, Rocks -Water-Worship : Spirits of Wells, Streams, Lakes, &c.—Tree-Worship : Spirits embodied in or inhabiting Trees ; Spirits of Groves and Forests—Animal-Worship : Animals worshipped, directly, or as incarnations or representatives of Deities ; Totem-Worship ; Serpent-WorshipSpecies-Deities ; their relation to Archetypal Ideas.

We have now to enter on the final topic of the investigation of Animism, by completing the classified survey of spiritual beings in general, from the myriad souls, elves, fairies, genii, conceived as filling their multifarious offices in man's life and the world's, up to the deities who reigu, few and mighty, over the spiritual hierarchy. In spite of endless diversity of detail, the general principles of this investigation seem comparatively easy of access to the enquirer, if he will use the two keys which the foregoing studies. supply: first, that spiritual beings are modelled by man on his primary conception of his own human soul, and second, that their purpose is to explain nature on the primitive childlike theory that it is truly and throughout “ Animated Nature.” If, as the poet says, “Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas," then rude tribes of ancient men had within them this source of happiness, that they could explain to their own content the causes of things. For to them spiritual beings, elves and gnomes, ghosts and manes, demons and deities, were the living personal causes of universal life. “The first men found everything easy, the mysteries of nature were not so hidden from them as from us," said Jacob Böhme the mystic. True, we may well answer, if these primitive men believed in that animistic philosophy of nature which even now survives in the savage mind. They could ascribe to kind or hostile spirits all good and evil of their own lives, and all striking operations of nature ; they lived in familiar intercourse with the living and powerful souls of their dead ancestors, with the spirits of the stream and grove, plain and mountain, they knew well the living mighty Sun pouring his beams of light and heat upon them, the living mighty Sea dashing her fierce billows on the shore, the great personal Heaven and Earth protecting and producing all things. For as the human body was held to live and act by virtue of its own inhabiting spirit-soul, so the operations of the world seemed to be carried on by the influence of other spirits. And thus Animism, starting as a philosophy of human life, extended and expanded itself till it became a philosophy of nature at large.

To the minds of the lower races it seems that all nature. is possessed, pervaded, crowded, with spiritual beings. In seeking by a few types to give an idea of this conception of pervading Spirits in its savage and barbaric stage, it is not indeed possible to draw an absolute line of separation between spirits occupied in affecting for good and ill the life of Man, and spirits specially concerned in carrying on the operations of Nature. In fact these two classes of spiritual beings blend into one another as inextricably as do the original animistic doctrines they are based on. As, however, the spirits considered directly to affect the life and fortune of Man lie closest to the centre of the animistic scheme, it is well to give them precedence. The description and function of these beings extend upwards from among the rudest human tribes. Milligan writes of the natives of Tasmania: “They

« PreviousContinue »